When Visiting Palenque Stay in El Panchan

When Visiting the Palenque Ruins, Stay in the Jungle of El Panchan Rather Than the Town of Palenque

Most visitors to the Palenque Mayan Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico make the mistake of staying in the town of Palenque. Because the town and the archeological site share the same name, tourists assume that they are one in the same. Upon arrival, however, they discover that the ruins are a 15-20 minute ride from town. The short trip can be done by taxi for 50 pesos (about $4 USD) or colectivo (shared van) for 10 pesos (about 80 cents US), but there is an even better solution. Rather than staying in Palenque, choose accommodations in the tiny jungle village of El Panchan.

The town of Palenque, located a 15-minute drive from the ruins

El Panchan’s location right outside the entrance gate to Palenque is one reason to choose it but there are even more compelling reasons. First, the price of accommodations in El Panchan is much more affordable. Although there are numerous options, I chose Margarita and Ed’s, where I rented a cabana with twin beds and a private, ensuite bathroom for about $15 per night. The room was spotless and well-furnished, there was round-the-clock hot water, and though the owners told me the closest Internet connection was in Palenque, I actually got a signal (albeit weak) on my Mexican TelCel Aircard that allowed me to get email and upload blog posts.

Cabanas at Margarita & Ed's Hostel in El Panchan

Inside of comfortable cabanas at Margarita & Ed's Hostel in El Panchan

Bathroom of a cabana at Margarita & Ed's Hostel in El Panchan

Laundry serves all the hostels and hotels at El Panchan

The view here is better, too, since El Panchan is literally carved out of the jungle. At first, narrow unmarked footpaths snaking through the thick vegetation seem to go nowhere. But follow them far enough and you will inevitably run into a tree house tucked into dense vegetation dripping with tropical blossoms. Even better, when you’re lulled to sleep at night by a cacophony of tweets, trills, coos, and chirps, you realize this is no zoo; this is a real living jungle, with only rustic walls separating you from the wildlife. And if you’re really lucky – as I was – you’ll be there on a night when the howler monkeys decide to sound off, roaring their displeasure in a territorial display meant to protect their territory.

Treetop house in the jungles of El Panchan

Jungle house at El Panchan

One of many trails winding through the jungle around El Panchan

The monkeys screams are so intimidating that visitors think twice about going outside after dark, but in the end hunger bests fear and everyone picks their way along dim trails to Don Muchos Restaurant, site of nightly entertainment and amazingly good food. Billed as an Italian Restaurant, Don Muchos’ menu offers up some fine pastas but they are better-known for the delicious pizzas they cook in their stone oven.

Don Muchos Restaurant at El Panchan serves great food

Past guests have left numerous comments on TripAdvisor and most agree with me that the village of El Panchan is the place to stay when visiting the Palenque Ruins, and Margaritas and Ed’s is the best hotel in the village.  Margarita and Ed’s has no website and phone service is unreliable in El Panchan, so the only option is to show up on their doorstep without reservations and hope for a vacancy.

24 Comments on “When Visiting the Palenque Ruins, Stay in the Jungle of El Panchan Rather Than the Town of Palenque

  1. What a lovely blog. Would el panchan be unsuitable for children? Even though el panchan is totally my bag I’m not so sure it would suit my 4 year old girl. What do you think? I might have to settle for the Paleneue town option instead

    • Hi Kazzystar: Oh yes, El Panchan is perfectly suitable for children. There were lots there with their families when I visited.

  2. Just got back from 9 days at El Panchan.  Your beautiful photos have soothed my heart – missing Palenque (the park and the ruins) and El Panchan so much.  

  3. Barbara, ‘just another great post from you’! 🙂 Wonderful pics and very interesting experience!

  4. I think if you can handle this, you can handle Nepal tea houses! However the bathrooms won’t be a nice! 🙂
    I’ve heard the howler monkeys sound like a lion…scary!

    • Sherry: I have to admit the conversation about leeches in Nepal spooked me a bit, but I figure I can handle that, too. I’m off to buy leech socks today!

  5. That is amazing. I would so much love to spend a night in this jungle village, but then I’m such a chicken and I don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to be so adventurous. Do I make any sense to you? Sounds like cognitive dissonance to me 😀

    • Laura: I understand about feeling like a chicken. After a bout of long term travel I come back to the States for a few weeks to regroup and then even I have to make myself go back out. But once you get on the road and settle into a travel rhythm, all the fear goes away – I promise. Once you’re out there, you understand there’s nothing to fear about travel.

  6. What an amazing trip you’re enjoying, Barbara. The photos and prose are delightful. I’m settling into my house in Austin, happy to go nowhere for a while, pleased someone as talented as you is doing the traveling for me.

    • Hi Ruth! Actually just flew into NYC for the annual Travel Blog Exchange, so we just missed each other. But stay posted – there’s more of Mexico to come and on Sept.1st I head to China, Tibet, Nepal, and SE Asia for a few months. I so thought of you while in NYC; wondering how I could come for a summer.

  7. What a great recommendation. The place looks idyllic with jungle paths to walk and real character filled buildings. If I ever venture to Mexico, Palenque is my #1 spot and I’ll track down this wonderful looking hotel.

    • Hi Mark: It’s definitely an idyllic place, and I didn’t even write about the drummers who play every night at the nearby restaurant, providing a soothing beat that lulled me to sleep.

  8. Barbara – I love following your adventures as I read from home. You really bring the reader to the place and now I have to add Palenqu Mayan Ruins on my list of places to visit. This post is full of valuable information, entertains, and educates – all at the same time. Hope you’re doing well. I miss you!

    • Thank you Sonia! I always love hearing that my reading delights people. Helps me to believe what I do has value.

  9. Do you know your posts just get more and more appealing? I can honestly say there is nowhere in the world I don’t want to visit, if only from curiosity, and then there are places I passionately want to to, and the rest are somewhere in between, which is where Mexico was I discovered your blog! This looks so different, and so beautiful, that I just want to jump on a plane!

    • Hi islandmomma: Probably couldn’t be more different from where you live in the dry Canary Islands, huh? Bet you’d love the jungle.

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  11. What do you do about the drinking water and staying healthy from parasites and such?

    • Hi Jeff: In my opinion, the whole “don’t drink the water, don’t eat uncooked vegetables, and eat only fruits that are peeled” is way overdone. I ate salads, fruits without peels, and used the water to brush my teeth and never once got sick. In fact, I only met one person on the trip who was sick and they were convinced that it was food poisoning.

  12. Hello there! I was just reading your ‘about me’ page and have to stay that I really admire you for pursuing your happiness. I’m looking forward to reading about your travels. Your photos above are amazing. I was born in Mexico but never traveled outside my native city of Chihuahua. Now I’m to read more of your lovely stay in Mexico.

    A Mexican Mommy living in Europe

    • Thank you Elisa, for the wonderful compliment. I am so pleased you like my blog and photos. Did you read my story about Chihuahua? I really liked the people there.

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